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Dark Future

Xtreem (2013)
Rating: 7.5/10

One of several bands to have taken on the Rancor moniker, this bunch of Spanish thrashers has risen out of the shadows of Madrid. Dark Future is the second opus from this quintet, who are fronted by Dani Löpez. Löpez is joined by guitarists Vasco and Ricky, with bassist Serra and drummer Jorge Sáez forming that sturdy backbone.

Since their inception back in 1998, the band’s output has been rather sporadic, Rancor releasing a clutch of demos and EPs. However, it’s good to have them back with their energetic brand of melodic thrash.

Dark Future is a nine-track platter that combines clean sounding thrash with a glistening New Wave Of British Heavy Metal style gallop. For the most part this blend enables the album to work, these guys clearly not interested in being part of the rather cheesy, humour-tinged thrash revival. Instead, they opt for a killer sound that has echoes of early 90s power thrash – think Annihilator, Metal Church, a hint of Anthrax, and lots of melody. This is particularly evident in the vocals of Dani Löpez, who effortlessly eases from thrashy chops to grittier metal strains and then onto higher, more power metal-styled wails.

Musically it’s nothing dazzling, but it’s a tried and trusted formula which makes the sound of Rancor rather accessible and easy on the ears. Even when they up the pace the guitars are clean, and the drums and bass are always distinct rather than being muddied. The band certainly have an eye for catchy riffs and infectious melody, and you’ll soon find yourself nodding along to the mesmerising ‘Addicted To Hate’, which is a prime example of how the band shifts the pace – and there’s a killer chorus in there too.

Löpez is clearly a decent vocalist but one who rarely goes for frills, despite his power and versatility. Those seeking something flashy may find the style of Löpez rather derivative and lacking, and the same could also be said for the sound in general. I’d rather listen to something more sturdy and reliable than an album that merely apes everything that has gone before, though.

‘Knocking At The Gates Of Hell’ and the brooding ‘Deaf People’ remind me of Anthrax via the darker aspects of Persistence Of Time (1990), such is the chugging melody and structural shifts, particularly with those vocals and heavy, metallic riffs. Elsewhere, we’re treated to the brooding ‘Sea Of Lies’ and the bounding title track, and somehow I’m rather refreshed by the whole affair, enjoying this nostalgic trip through the realms of thrash melody.

This is catchy stuff indeed that never alienates the listener with blistering bursts of speed. Instead, Dark Future remains as a modest thrash metal album that will no doubt please those serious thrash-heads who have a taste for clinical licks and precision. I really thought Rancor’s Dark Future was going to be a snooze-fest, but I’m glad to say I was completely wrong in my judgement. This is a tidy record that deserves more than just a few spins.

Neil Arnold

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